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Uruks vs. Uruk-hai

Greenwood

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A week or two back, in a long thread on the movie forum, there was considerable discussion over the use of the terms Uruk vs. Uruk-hai in LOTR. A number of us contended that the terms have different meanings, while others said they were interchangeable. A number of quotes from the book were given. Since them I have spent some time looking through LOTR to find any additional instances I could of the use of the two terms. Following are all the instances I could find, including those already found:

1) In the chapter The Uruk-hai in The Two Towers, Ugluk says: "We are the fighting Uruk-hai! We slew the great warrior. We took the prisoners. We are the servants of Saruman the Wise, the White Hand: the Hand that gives us man's-flesh to eat. We came out of Isengard, and led you here ..... "

2) Later in the same chapter, Ugluk again speaking: "Leave them to me then! No killing, as I've told you before; but if you want to throw away what we've come all the way to get, throw it away! I'll look after it. Letting the fighting Uruk-hai do the work, as usual. ..... "

3) On the next page, Ugluk again: "You seem to know a lot. ... More than is good for you I guess. Perhaps those in Lugburz might wonder how, and why. But in the meantime the Uruk-hai of Isengard can do the dirty work, as usual. ...."

4) This is not exactly a quote, but in The Two Towers, Tolkien titles his chapter "The Uruk-hai", he does not call it "The Uruks".

5) In The Two Towers in the chapter Helm's Deep, as Aragorn looks out for the dawn there is the following passage:

"The Orcs yelled and jeered. 'Come down! Come down!' they cried. 'If you wish to speak to us, come down! Bring out your king! We are the fighting Uruk-hai. We will fetch him from his hole, if he does not come down. Bring out your skulking king!'

" 'The king stays or comes at his own will,' said Aragorn.

" 'Then what are you doing here?' they answered. 'Why do you look out? Do you wish to see the greatness of our army? We are the fighting Uruk-hai.'

" 'I looked out to see the dawn,' said Aragorn.

" 'What of the dawn?' they jeered. 'We are the Uruk-hai: we do not stop the fight for night or day, for fair weather or for storm. .... "

6) In The Return of the King, in the chapter The Seige of Gondor there is the following sentence: "No hours so dark had Pippin known, not even in the clutches of the Uruk-hai."

7) In The Return of the King, in the chapter The Land of Shadow, Sam and Frodo overhear two orcs talking and one says: ".... First they say it's a great Elf in bright armour, then it's a sort of small dwarf-man, then it must be a pack of rebel Uruk-hai; or maybe it's all the lot together."

8) In The Fellowship of the Ring, in the chapter The Bridge of Khazad-dum, Gandalf says: "There are Orcs, very many of them .... And some are large and evil: black Uruks of Mordor. ...."

9) In The Two Towers, in the chapter The Choices of Master Samwise, Gorbag says: " .... I say something has slipped. And we've got to look out. Always the poor Uruks to put slips right, and small thanks. ....."

10) In The Return of the King, in the chapter The Land of the Shadow, Sam and Frodo are overtaken on the road by troops of orcs and there is the following description of the troops: "Beside them, running up and down the line, went two of the large fierce uruks, cracking lashes and shouting." (Italics in original.)

11) In The Return of the King, in Appendix A it says: "In the last years of Denethor I the race of uruks, black orcs of great strength, first appeared out of Mordor, and in 2475 they swept across Ithilien and took Osgiliath."

12) In The Return of the King, in Appendix F it says: "Related. no doubt, was the word uruk of the Black Speech, though this was applied as a rule only to the great soldier-orcs that at this time issued from Mordor and Isengard. The lesser kinds were called, especially by the Uruk-hai, snaga 'slave'." (Italics in the original.)

In examples 1 to 6, the term Uruk-hai is clearly referring to Saruman's orc troops. In examples 8 to 11, the term Uruks (sometimes spelled with a lower case "u") is clearly referring to Sauron's troops. We are left with examples 7 and 12. Example 7 is ambiguous since Sauron's orc could be referring to orcs in the employ of Saruman, who he might well consider rebels. Example 12 is the only case where Tolkien uses the two terms in close proximity and it seems to me to be ambiguous. The first sentence clearly refers makes uruk refer to Mordor orcs as in examples 8 to 11, but the second sentence use of Uruk-hai does not automatically make the two terms equivalent and I find it interesting that Tolkien captilizes Uruk-hai as if it is a specifc name, but does not do the same with uruk. Thus, it seems to me clear that uruk and Uruk-hai are used quite differently by Tolkien in LOTR with uruk referring to Sauron's large, soldier orcs and Uruk-hai referring to Saruman's large, soldier, daylight-tolerant orcs.

Cian and other forum members pointed out the Index entry (by Christopher Tolkien) in Unfinished Tales that says: "Uruks -- Anglicized form of Uruk-hai of the Black Speech." This entry specifcally refers to the account "The Battles of the Fords of Isen" in Unfinished Tales in which Tolkien repeatedly uses the term uruks when he is talking about Saruman's troops fighting with the troops of Rohan. This seems to be the only time where Tolkien uses the term uruk for Saruman's orc troops. However, this is a draft piece which Tolkien did not use in LOTR and hence can be assumed to not be in a final form.

Cian also posted many examples of third party "Tolkien scholars" repeating the definition of uruk as being an Anglicized form of Uruk-hai. I have come across references which claim that Uruk-hai is a plural form of Uruk, which clearly does not fit Tolkien's usage since he uses both uruk and uruks.

My question after all this is the following: Does anyone have any evidence from Tolkien, himself to support the interpretation that has been advanced by the various "Tolkien scholars". I have been able to find nothing in Tolkien's own hand to support the "scholar's" interpretation, with the exception of the account in Unfinished Tales, which is a unused draft and thus cannot be used against Tolkien's published words in LOTR.

I am not trying to reignite a controversy from the movie forum on the book forum. I have noticed that there are many knowledgeable members who never visit the movie forum and I thought perhaps someone might have additional knowledge to share.

I thank Aragil. Cian, Greymantle, ReadWryt, Thrakerzog and Wide Boy for originally finding some of the 12 passages cited above. (NOTE: I am not saying they were all on the same side of the question. They were not.) My apologies if I have left out any other member who also contributed to the thread in the movie forum.
 
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Beleg Strongbow

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I thought that the urak-hai was a development of normal orcs done by saruman from the orders of sauron that made them more versatile and bearable to sun. and that uruks were the massive orcs of mordor. In the 3 book lotr when sam and frodo are running in the orc host it says someting about the orcs running past ran staright through them and they were the big massive uruk orc from barad-dur. holla
 

Greenwood

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In the 3 book lotr when sam and frodo are running in the orc host it says someting about the orcs running past ran staright through them and they were the big massive uruk orc from barad-dur. holla
Beleg Strongbow

Thank you. You are right. On the next page from the passage I cite in 10) in my post it says: "A troop of heavy-armed uruks from Barad-dur charged into the Durthang line and threw them into confusion." I guess I should number this as 13) so as not to chnage the numbering in my original post. That now means we have six instances (numbers 1 to 6) of Tolkien using Uruk-hai to refer to Saruman's orc troops and five instances (numbers 8 to 11 and 13) where Tolkien uses uruk to refer to Sauron's troops and two instances that are open to interpretatin.

I hoped others would be able to find instances I had missed.
 

aragil

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Not to put too much faith in second sources, but a number of them seem to think that the translation of 'hai' should be 'people'. Here's a web example, from the encyclopedia of Arda:
http://www.glyphweb.com/arda/u/urukhai.html
My point is that 'people' in our world, and 'people' in Middle-Earth could have very different connotations. In our world, there is only one species that is regularly referred to as 'people'- humans. In Middle-Earth there are many species which could take the term people- dwarves, hobbits, elves, orcs and humans, to name a few. I wonder how the secondary sources come to the conclusion that 'people' could be applied to any race in that context. Why couldn't it just be a synonym for humans?
Another use of 'hai' is for Olog-hai, which are trolls which could withstand sunlight. I don't remember what their references were, but Iron Crown Enterprises, which used to publish the Middle Earth Role-Playing game (talk about your disreputable secondary sources) claimed that the Olog-hai were bred from crossing humans and trolls, thusly givning them their sun tolerance. If this were the case, then maybe Olog-hai meant 'troll-men' or 'troll-humans', rather than 'troll-people'.
The only other use of hai which I am aware of, was the derogatory handle which orcs gave to the Woses, 'Ogor-hai' (sp?). I don't see why this wouldn't also seem to indicate some sort of half-human term, as the Orcs probably had no idea what the Woses were.
Anyway, I think that another bit of quotation which gives this theory credence, comes from the mouth (pen) of Tolkien himself, while discussing Saruman in Morgoths Ring

"... his wickedest deed: the interbreeding of Orcs and Men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men treacherous and vile."
(thank you Cian).

According to the theory, Men-orcs and Orc-men (the names Tolkien uses here) would be the translations from the black speech of Uruk-hai, which these particular orcs call themselves.
Why not?
 

Cian

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Well, I don't think I've been on either side, but I do have a few comments to add :)

Originally posted by Greenwood
The first sentence clearly refers makes uruk refer to Mordor orcs as in examples 8 to 11, but the second sentence use of Uruk-hai does not automatically make the two terms equivalent and I find it interesting that Tolkien captilizes Uruk-hai as if it is a specifc name, but does not do the same with uruk.
There it would be normal not to capitalize the word uruk as the context is linguistic, ie about the Black Speech word itself, as a word. Just as if JRRT wrote the word sinda ("grey") and then followed with nominal plural Sindar meaning "Grey-ones" or "Grey-elves".

That said, Tolkien does capitalize the word Uruk in LotR anyway, though not in all instances, and also in Unfinished Tales.

However, this is a draft piece which Tolkien did not use in LOTR and hence can be assumed to not be in a final form.
As I mentioned in the other thread, in reference to UT's The Battles of the Fords of Isen, this was not a draft for LoTR however. This is Tolkien writing about his mythology years after the publication of LotR, using "Uruks" throughout. For clarity, as your sentence might imply that it was written at the time of writing LotR. Christopher Tolkien defines this as a 'late' narrative.

Cian also posted many examples of third party "Tolkien scholars" repeating the definition of uruk as being an Anglicized form of Uruk-hai.
Tolkien linguistic scholars, yes (though some clearly know the works outside of the linguistic arena). We don't know the specific work process behind each opinion I gave, but I can say generally that they (the ling folk) often enough have different opinions about X and express such, like we do here :) In any case good scholarship is not simple parroting of course, and some of these folks publish, or want to.

I have come across references which claim that Uruk-hai is a plural form of Uruk, which clearly does not fit Tolkien's usage since he uses both uruk and uruks.
Compare Silmaril and "Silmarils" and Silmarilli though. Quenya pluralization Silmarilli along with anglicized Silmarils.

Just my comments to those points anyway. Cheers
 
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The way I see it, Uruk-hai is a subset of uruk. Uruks being a larger soldier type of orc first developed by Sauron. Uruk-hai are then a further advanced form of uruk. So therefore all Uruk-hai are Uruks, but only Sauraman's Uruks are considered Uruk-hai.

This would explain why in #12 Uruks are said to have come from both Mordor and Isengard.

"though this was applied as a rule only to the great soldier-orcs that at this time issued from Mordor and Isengard."
 

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Why don't we try this from a different tack. Does anyone remember if the Uruks could withstand sunlight. If there is proof that the Uruks were afraid of sunlight then we have a match and someone wins the Double Jeapordy prize. If Uruks were able to withstand sunlight, then we may be talking about the same thing.

I personally think Saruman (oops...edited from Sauron to Saruman)to did some breeding of his own and came up with a totally different animal. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say, so someone find the answer. Okay, okay, I'll look too.:)
 
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Greenwood

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Cian

My apologies for implying that you had taken a position on either side of the discussion on the other thread. I wanted to give credit to all who contibuted direct quotes, but I did not want to imply that everyone shared the same opinion. Also thank you for another excellent post.

To give my views on a few of your points: I find it interesting that Tolkien (so far as I have been able to find) is quite consistent in always capitilizing Uruk-hai whenever he uses it, thus treating it as a proper name, but, as you say is inconsistent in captilizing uruk, only doing so about half the time in LOTR. If Uruk-hai were merely a plural form of uruk in another language I do not see why Tolkien would always capitilize it and only use it (except in example 12 which is ambiguous) to refer to Saruman's orc troops.

I should have been clearer in my original post. I think there are two related, but independent questions here. The first is: Does Tolkien, in LOTR, use the terms uruk and Uruk-hai interchangeably. In my opinion he does not. The word Uruk-hai occurs ten times in LOTR (counting the multiple uses in example 5); in eight cases it clearly refers to Saruman's troops and the remaining two cases are ambiguous. So far there have been six cases found in LOTR of the term Uruks/uruks/uruk being used; in five cases they are unambigously Sauron's troops; only in appendix F (example 12) are Sauron's and Saruman's troops referred to together (see below for my thoughts on that). The second question is what precisely do the two terms mean and what is their etymology. This is of course related to the first question, but not the same question.

I thank you for the clarification on when UT's The Battles of the Fords of Isen was written. However, since Tolkien never made any attempt to include it in LOTR, for instance in a later edition, I do not think it can be considered to be in a final form and hence is in a sense a draft. His use of the term Uruks is inconsistent in this piece with his use in LOTR. If he actually included it in a later edition of LOTR Tolkien probably would have made the usage consistent, or would have had the inconsistency brought to his attention. This is precisely why I say that all Tolkien's posthumously published material is a secondary source when we are looking at possible inconsistencies within LOTR.


Aragil

Your suggestion of the suffix -hai meaing "men" (or "half-men" in conjunction with orc or troll or Woses) makes sense to me given the usage of the terms in LOTR. Certainly, more sense than the definitions I have seen from the published "scholars". I started this thread to see if anyone had any idea why the scholars used their definition instead of something like this one.


Wildcat98

You make an excellent point. In the earlier incarnation of this discussion on the movie forum I suggested that the most inclusive term would be orcs. Uruks are then a subset of orcs, specifically the large, soldier orcs originally used by Sauron and the Uruk-hai are a further subset, specifically the large, light-tolerant soldier orcs "created" by Saruman. Thus as you say all Uruk-hai could be considered uruks (and orcs), but not all uruks are Uruk-hai. And while all uruks and Uruk-hai are orcs, not all orcs are either uruks or Uruk-hai.


Grond

The light tolerance question was raised on the other thread also (by Thrakerzog ?, perhaps Aragil?). Other than the Uruk-hai, who boast of their disdain for the sun, the only time I can remember any orcs unambiguously being active in daylight is inthe crossing of Rohan with Merry and Pippin. There we seem to have at least two and probably three kinds of orcs: 1) the Uruk-hai from Isengard led by Ugluk, 2) orcs of unspecified type from Mordor led by Grishnak, and 3) smaller, northern orcs apparently from Moria come to seek revenge for the Fellowship's trespass in Moria. Tolkien clearly has the Uruk-hai in charge, driving the other orcs and jeering at them for their weakness in the sun. The fact that even the Moria orcs could function in daylight would indicate that while orcs are not happy in the sun, they can function in it at need; i.e. they are not totally incapacitated by the sun or turned into stone like trolls. Grishnak leaves the group and later catches up again with some of his fellow Mordor orcs, so once again at great need, they seem able to abide the sun. In every other case I can think of in LOTR (or The Hobbit), orcs, other than the Uruk-hai, are only active at night or under cover of dense cloud provided by Sauron (as in the Seige of Gondor). Perhaps someone will remember something else. I just checked the ROTK for the final battle in front of the Black Gates and it does not appear to have been fought in full daylight. The few references to the light refer to the "grey light of early day" and "the sun gleamed red"; also "shadows" and "gloom" over Mordor. In any event, it does not sound like bright sunlight.
 

Tar-Elenion

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Perhaps another look at '-hai' should be taken, particularly in reference to the 'Olog-hai'.
 

Ossiriand Blade

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half breeds

The easiest explanation is that uruk,black speech for orc,refers to pure bred orcs wheras uruk-hai means half orc,an orc crossed with man.Tolkien uses this elsewhere with olog and olog-hai,or troll and half troll.
 

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I think that both Uruk and Uruk-hai are the same thing; it is simply easier to say uruk (ie. 'orc') than to say 'one of the Uruk-hai'. Unless I am mistaken, -hai is Morbeth, and means 'people, folk'. So Uruk-hai means 'orc-folk'. It is like saying "British people" and "a Briton". Uruk-hai is just the 'formal' way of saying 'orcs'. IMHO, at least.
 

Cian

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Originally posted by Greenwood
Cian My apologies for implying that you had taken a position on either side of the discussion on the other thread.
Thanks and no apology needed really. I was just nitpicking about my "fence-sitting" there.

If Uruk-hai were merely a plural form of uruk in another language I do not see why Tolkien would always capitilize it and only use it (except in example 12 which is ambiguous) to refer to Saruman's orc troops.
Hmmm, it's not capitalized with the reference to "uruks" as a seeming "race" ("In the last years of Denethor I the race of uruks, ..."). Might need to look closer here ...

Aside: the HoMe quote I gave elsewhere seems to put a stamp on "training" interestingly, in that the word uruk ultimately referred specially to "trained and disciplined Orcs", though indeed lesser "breeds" were snaga

Anyway, perhaps we should look to UT where Tolkien seems to get quite consistent with his frequent enough, capitalized Uruks. Heheh ;)

... in eight cases it clearly refers to Saruman's troops and the remaining two cases are ambiguous.
But remember that 6 of 8 quotes you point out here are "Uruk-hai" (or a member of) calling themselves "Uruk-hai" and the seventh is the chapter name. We may simply look at this as maybe due to circumstance of chosen "scene(s)", ie do we have another scene(s) in which the troops of Mordor are being so vocal about themselves, and using "we are the fighting uruks ... " rather? Or similar.

I thank you for the clarification on when UT's The Battles of the Fords of Isen was written. However, since Tolkien never made any attempt to include it in LOTR, for instance in a later edition, I do not think it can be considered to be in a final form and hence is in a sense a draft. His use of the term Uruks is inconsistent in this piece with his use in LOTR. If he actually included it in a later edition of LOTR Tolkien probably would have made the usage consistent, or would have had the inconsistency brought to his attention. This is precisely why I say that all Tolkien's posthumously published material is a secondary source when we are looking at possible inconsistencies within LOTR
I understand your general view here. But will you briefly (as if I should ask you to be brief! considering how long this one's likely to come out ~ LoL) explain what you mean on how Tolkien's use of Uruks in The Battles of the Fords of Isen is "inconsistent" with that of LotR?

Here's CT's characterization of the narrative in any case (while I'm rambling here anyway), of the Isen Battles narrative, it:

"... belongs with other late pieces of severe historical analysis; it presented relatively little difficulty of a textual kind, and is only unfinished in the most obvious sense."

It breaks off in mid sentence (Garn it!). Compare this to Christopher Tolkien's introductory remarks regarding The History of Galadriel and Celeborn though ~ that this is an Unfinished Tale "... in the larger sense: not a narrative that comes to an abrupt halt".

That speaks to consistency in relation to published writings of course, any many Tolkien fans already know about the history of G & C in that light. Also, CT's general notes say that he has made no alterations (in UT) for the sake of consistency with published works, but still has rather: "drawn attention throughout to conflicts and variations".

And Imo, the use of Uruks cannot be easily tagged as an editorial "shift in nomenclature" (also mentioned in CT's intro) ... an editorial shift from "Uruk-hai" that is, because had U-h been used, it could hardly be said to fall into the category of "disproportionate confusion" I think. Cheers

I'm winded (for now)
:)
 
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Greenwood

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But remember that 6 of 8 quotes you point out here are "Uruk-hai" (or a member of) calling themselves "Uruk-hai" and the seventh is the chapter name. We may simply look at this as maybe due to circumstance of chosen "scene(s)", ie do we have another scene(s) in which the troops of Mordor are being so vocal about themselves, and using "we are the fighting uruks ... " rather?
Cian

A couple of quick comments at the end of my lunch break.

But see my example 6: In The Return of the King, in the chapter The Seige of Gondor there is the following sentence: "No hours so dark had Pippin known, not even in the clutches of the Uruk-hai."

In this case it is not any character using the term Uruk-hai to refer to Saruman's troops, but the book's "narrator" himself, Tolkien.


But will you briefly (as if I should ask you to be brief! considering how long this one's likely to come out ~ LoL) explain what you mean on how Tolkien's use of Uruks in The Battles of the Fords of Isen is "inconsistent" with that of LotR?
The inconsistency is that throughout LOTR Tolkien refers to Saruman's elite orc troops are referred to as Uruk-hai, but in The Battles of the Fords of Isen they are called Uruks.
 

DGoeij

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This is a good thread. I do not have much more to add than to say that the addition -hai does look in the context of ME as something to refer to anything that has something to do with the human race. Which makes sense if you deal with several different races all the time.
But Pontifex makes sense with the idea that maybe it was just a kind of formal speach. These creatures from Isengard where pretty arrogant IMHO, being big, strong and able to endure sunlight. Maybe they where just used to boasting about themselves being: The Fighting Uruk-hai. Something like, I am John Doe, Big Bad Army Dude (not meant as an offence to people serving in the military, I just needed an example)
 

Greenwood

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DGoeij

But in my examples 4, 6 and 8 it is the author (Tolkien) who uses the term Uruk-hai, not one of the Uruk-hai themselves. And in example 7 it is a Mordor orc who refers to a "pack of rebel Uruk-hai". None of these fit into the idea of an individual engaging in boasting about himself.
 

DGoeij

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D'oh,
that thought popped up when I was typing. You're right, away with the boasting theory. Interesting problem nonetheless. I'll keep an eye on this thread.
 

Grond

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One can't be sure this issue will ever be resolved. It appears from the text that the author himself didn't feel this should have been an issue. He never once (that I can find) sees fit to actually define the Uruk-hai. His descriptions and use of the term make me feel they are an entirely different breed of Orc.... but if we're so confused and the topic is so confusing, why didn't the author address it? Surely, learned tho all of us may be, this question has come up before the author's death. A real conundrum!!:confused:
 

Greenwood

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His descriptions and use of the term make me feel they are an entirely different breed of Orc.
Grond

That certainly seems (to me) to be the way he uses the terms.

One can't be sure this issue will ever be resolved. It appears from the text that the author himself didn't feel this should have been an issue.
To me it seems the only reason it is an issue is because some "Tolkien scholars" have advanced definitions at odds with the apparent meanings in LOTR. When I started this thread it was because I wondered if anyone had any evidence as to what the "Tolkie scholars" based their definitions on. I suppose short of writing them individually we will not know.
 

Grond

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Originally posted by Greenwood
To me it seems the only reason it is an issue is because some "Tolkien scholars" have advanced definitions at odds with the apparent meanings in LOTR. When I started this thread it was because I wondered if anyone had any evidence as to what the "Tolkie scholars" based their definitions on. I suppose short of writing them individually we will not know.
The ultimate Tolkien scholar was the author himself. In all of his published works, there are deatailed descriptions of most of the races of Middle-earth. Specifically in the Appendices of RotK. There it speaks of Orcs. In his works which were published after his death there are definitions and indexes that could have answered this question very easily. My question is still the same. This question surely came up before the death of the author. This reader-student-scholor of Tolkien can't understand why we are debating an answer. The author should have answered it.

I am going to write a letter to CT himself and see what/if he responds. Of course, I know that won't satisfy you Greenwood since he is a secondary source.:rolleyes: :D
 

Greenwood

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I am going to write a letter to CT himself and see what/if he responds. Of course, I know that won't satisfy you Greenwood since he is a secondary source
Grond

Actually, I would find CT's take on the whole question interesting given that his entry in the index of UT conflicts with the apparent meaning in LOTR. It would not surprise me if the various Tolkien scholars were relying on CT's index entry in UT, a not unreasonable thing for them to do, but it does demonstrate the dangers of not going back to the primary source that I have been stressing. What I wonder about is that the Tolkien reference book (by JEA Tyler) that Greymantle cited on the earlier thread actually predates the publication of UT. So, did CT use an outside source when making up his index or is Greymantle's copy of the reference book a later edition that incorporated material from UT?


This question surely came up before the death of the author. This reader-student-scholor of Tolkien can't understand why we are debating an answer. The author should have answered it.
Perhaps the question never came up before Tolkien's death because the usage is clear in LOTR? At least it always seemed clear to me. Without CT's index entry in UT and without third party "scholars" opinions, it would still seem clear.
 

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